Perhaps more accurately, the title should be “The Best Offshore Banks 2012 that I have used“. This will be a list of the best offshore banks that I have used in 2012.
The word “used” refers to myself having an account or card or other services with the bank, or a bank which any of the companies I deal with as a director or consultant uses.
There will be no Caribbean banks here. This does not mean that banks in Belize, Dominica, Bahamas, St. Vincent, and so on are not good. It simply means I do not yet have enough experience with any of them. Maybe in next year’s edition?
Anyway, without further ado, here are the best offshore banks 2012 in no particular order.
Bank: Jyske Bank
Time with bank: 3 years
Purpose: company bank account for Gibraltar company
Motivation: Jyske Bank stands out in terms of service and has competitive fees. Their Netbank (online banking) has never been down and I have never had a card purchase declined due to problems with the bank. They have fairly good interest rates and they have helped set up a very good low to medium risk investment portfolio for the company’s savings.
For those interested in opening an account, Jyske Bank requires all the usual documents (notarized passport and company documents) and 150,000 EUR (used to be 50,000) or currency equivalent. Being in the SEPA region helps for cheap and quick transfers across Europe.
Jurisdiction: Hong Kong
Time with bank: 2 years
Purpose: company bank account for Seychelles IBC
Motivation: Very easy-going bank and excellent telephone support. Account opening and maintenance are a breeze. Low minimum balance makes this bank a good fit for this small Seychelles company. It’s worth noting they only issue UnionPay ATM cards for non-resident companies. This is not a problem to most people, unless you require a company credit card such as Visa, MasterCard, or Amex.
The internet banking has not been down a single time outside of maintenance.
Minimum balance varies depending on account type but for most smaller companies, an Integrated Account is enough with a minimum of 25,000 HKD being required. If you fall below that, they charge a rather humble 50 HKD per month. Multi-currency by default. For company accounts, a director must visit the bank in purpose. For personal accounts, you must visit the bank.
Bank: Hang Seng
Jurisdiction: Hong Kong
Time with bank: 1.5 years
Purpose: company account for Hong Kong company
Motivation: Hang Seng is effectively owned by HSBC and products are nearly identical. The reason we decided to go with Hang Seng over HSBC was that Hang Seng has slightly lower fees and is much more lenient with issuing business cards.
Bank: Crèdit Andorrà
Time with bank: 3+ years
Purpose: personal savings
Website: http://www.creditandorra.ad/ | http://www.creditandorraprivatebankers.com/
Motivation: This bank is simply amazing. All accounts are multi-currency and they support a lot of currencies, including some smaller ones. Transfers in and out outside of Europe are faster than mainstream European banks and within Europe it’s usually as fast as SEPA despite not being a SEPA enabled bank.
Fees are higher than mainstream European banks, but chances are you will more than make up for it with the bank’s huge selection of investment opportunities. Credit Andorra gives you access to stocks, bonds, funds, and equities across the world. See http://www.borsacredit.ad/idiomas/in/ for more information.
For your own security (as well as privacy) you can generate an endless number of virtual cards (called Cybertargetas) with the bank. These cards can hold up to 2,000 EUR and at most be loaded and reloaded with 5,000 EUR.
Customer service speaks Catalan, Spanish, French, English, and a couple of more languages.
Minimum balance to open a regular personal account is zero. The requirement for private banking varies; the lowest I’ve heard was 50,000 EUR. You must visit the bank in person to open an account. Private banking is also available with the bank’s Panamanian branch.
Bank: Banque de Luxembourg (BDL)
Time with bank: 20+ years
Purpose: Luxembourg trust
Motivation: Excellent returns on investment funds, despite a very shaky Eurozone as of late, and highly professional staff. The trust had been with this bank long before I was involved and I have found no reason to recommend another bank.
Bank: Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB)
Jurisdiction: United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Time with bank: 4 years
Purpose: company account for UAE (RAK) company
Motivation: This bank has improved a lot and is now one of my preferred banks in the Middle Eastern region. There have been times when we have needed to call our account manager in the middle of the night local time and he has been happy to take the call – and solve the issue!
They offer a special credit card for smaller businesses, which is something I wish more banks did. The card is easy to get and can be invaluable to new businesses.
ADCB is also a big merchant bank with settlement in a wide range of currencies.
New accounts can be opened with as little as AED 50,000 (circa 10,000 EUR or 13,500 USD) to avoid penalty fees and all accounts are multi-currency, which in addition to the usual EUR, USD, GBP, and local AED covers some other regional currencies. Islamic banking is available.
Bank: Banque Audi
Time with bank: 4 years
Purpose: savings products for UAE (RAK) company
Motivation: Lebanon was picked for its extremely tight banking secrecy and Banque Audi had the services best fitting for this company (cash collection, savings). The interest rates on savings accounts are phenomenal and the staff is always helpful. Rigorous application process but smooth sailing after that (very few questions asked).
Bank: United Overseas Bank (UOB)
Time with bank: 1 year
Purpose: company account for Singapore company
Motivation: This bank is a fairly new acquaintance but so far it’s been nothing short of excellent. Multi-currency accounts, top-notch customer service (in English), and simple account opening and credit card applications.
Contrary to its name, UOB is not particularly open to offshore companies and have recently made it even more difficult for overseas individuals to open accounts. They will and do open accounts for offshore companies (especially Hong Kong and other surrounding Asian countries) but for example European or American (including Caribbean) individuals or companies may find it difficult.
Time with bank: 2+ years
Purpose: savings account for Panamanian holding company
Motivation: Anyone who has ever opened – or tried to open! – an account in Panama knows that it can feel like taking a deep dive into an ocean of paperwork. I walked out of several banks just shaking my head at the amount of paperwork required. Multibank, however, made it easy. They still required a lot of paperwork but they were very upfront about what they needed.
They have some very interesting card products and it’s all very international-friendly since the bank uses USD as standard currency. Account opening can be very difficult for non-Panamanian entities or persons. Multi-currency is available but not standard. Minimum deposit varies from 1,000 to 35,000 USD depending on service needed.
Bank: Federal Bank of Middle East (FBME)
Jurisdiction: Cyprus and Tanzania
Time with bank: 5 years
Purpose: merchant accounts for various offshore companies
Motivation: FBME is for many the go-to bank in Cyprus, and rightfully so. The bank traces its roots back to Lebanon and is currently one of the biggest banks in the high-risk merchant account market; not because of their rates but because of their leniency and how easy it is to get a merchant account with them. They also offer an impressive range of card products, such as prepaid cards, anonymous no-name cards, and regular credit cards, including the exclusive Visa Infinite card.
FBME in Cyprus rarely opens personal accounts. They are mostly a corporate and merchant bank. Unlike many other Cypriot banks, FBME has virtually zero exposure to Greece and even offered to help the Cypriot government pay for a bail-out in the 2011/2012 crisis.
FBME charges fairly high fees, which can be a bit daunting to small companies but I would say it’s worth it. No Cypriot bank comes close to FBME.
That rounds it up. Those are the best offshore banks I have used in 2012. To recap:
- Jyske Bank, Gibraltar
- HSBC, Hong Kong
- Hang Seng, Hong Kong
- Crèdit Andorrà, Andorra
- Banque de Luxembourg, Luxembourg
- Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, UAE
- Banque Audi, Lebanon
- United Overseas Bank, Singapore
- Multibank, Panama
- FBME, Cyprus